October 07, 2020 6 min read


Responsible travelling is travelling with an awareness that we all have an effect on the people, economy, and nature of the places we visit.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, more and more people have headed into the wilderness as a way to get out, be active, and have fun which is amazing since nature has so many positive effects on people's health. However, when moving in nature we should also take into consideration the health and wellbeing of precious mother nature.

Slowing down and living simply in the wild doesn’t mean living without responsibilities – the responsibilities change when living as one with nature outside of urban civilisation. Without running water, sanitation facilities, washing machines, and other modern everyday luxuries, the basic human needs (e.g. water, warmth, rest, security) in the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy becomes everyday work and items of the daily to do list. 

To keep the delicate balance and conserve the natural heritage, we must give back as much as we take. An effective way is to start by being a responsible traveller and visitor when in the wilderness, be it a national park or a nature reserve. Responsible travelling is travelling with an awareness that we all have an effect on the people, economy, and nature of the places we visit.  

Here are a few simple practices to start with. 

 

Things to consider before travelling 

 

  1. Location: where to travel? When planning the travel destination, the first thing to think is what do you look for in a trip? Often a walk in nature, a long weekend in a neighbouring city, or a staycation on your own, can be enough to get your mind relaxed. A nice alternative for a trip far away is to simply become a tourist in your city or country instead. Explore where you live and be surprised at what you learn about your local area. Another mind-game is to plan a trip as far as you can go by traveling without taking flights. It is slower and a bit more complex than taking a direct flight, but it can be less expensive while being an exciting adventure.  
  2. Transportation: how do you travel to the destination? Transportation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. For long-haul flights, carbon emissions per passenger per kilometer travelled are comparable to driving the same distance in a small car. The problem is that one long-haul flight can travel the same number of kilometers in less than a day that driving a car travels in one year on average. It’s also worth noting that the climate effect of emissions from aviation is much greater than the equivalent from other types of transport because the non-CO2 greenhouse gases generated at higher altitudes persist for longer than at the surface and also have stronger warming potential. These days there are many easy and relatively inexpensive ways to travel by land. However, if flying is the only option, prefer direct flights and consider compensating your flight’s carbon emissions. [1]
  3. Timing: when to travel and for how long? Most of us have annual holidays during the busiest holiday and festive seasons. However, you might get more out of the trip when travelling outside the most popular season. Travelling off-season is usually less expensive and it also has a positive effect on the destination’s surroundings and local tourism, as the entrepreneurs can benefit from tourism throughout the year. The length of your holiday might be out of your hands, but at least you can think about how long you stay in one destination. Stay for longer periods in one place over several short trips - especially if you travel far. This is a simple way to reduce the amount of emissions caused by transportation. [1]
  4. Reason for travelling: why do I travel? We all have our reasons for travelling. However, sometimes it can be healthy to question our actions and rethink the reasons behind them. Why do we travel in the first place? In her blog, Sini [3] reflected on what makes a trip exotic; is it the distance, different culture, or the climate? If it is because of some overwhelming motivation to see the world, explore nature, and to get to know foreign cultures – it’s understandable. But if you are escaping your home and reminders of your everyday life, it might be reasonable to stop and think about how to make your normal life more satisfying. In today’s social media-driven world, extrinsic motivators such as fame or showing off might also get you thinking about travel. As Sadhguru wisely says: the only way out is in [2]. Do not look for a way out of misery, stress, or to-do lists. We see the world within ourselves, so you can also travel within.  

 

Things to consider while travelling 

 The ecological, economical, and socio-cultural aspects [4, 5]

 

1. Ecological aspect:

  • Stay on Designated Trails: “I´m only one person; how much harm can I really do?”. The most popular hiking trails in the world have millions of tourists every year. When we wander off designated trails, we harm nature and put our native biodiversity at risk.
  • Treat animals right and avoid engaging in activities where wild animals are kept in captivity for human entertainment and not treated well. Animals are often subjected to exploitation as an exotic attraction.
  • Don’t feed the animals or disturb their natural habitat
  • Do you need to buy all your hiking gear or could you hire it, or perhaps borrow some items from a friend? This is especially relevant if you are going for your first hiking trip; you might not want to invest in all the expensive gear before you’re sure to continue the hobby.
  • Don’t use soap when washing in a lake or ocean. Only use biodegradable soaps in the bushes where soil acts as a filter and accelerates biodegradation. (Get your biodegradable soaps from e.g. Minska).
  • Poo in a loo: when you need to poo, choose your spot wisely. Make sure it’s at least 200 metres away from water sources, and never go to the same place twice. You should also dig a hole of at least 20cm to avoid animals digging it up. Dispose of your toilet paper, or at least bury it. 
  • Remove Nothing Except Trash: any type of material becomes an issue in an environment where it doesn't belong. Plastic never belongs in nature, not even then when the plastic is bioplastic or biodegradable plastic. (Read more about plastics: Good Bad Plastic & Sportswear & Microplastics)
  • Don’t wash your bed sheets and towels daily – reuse them to save water and energy. You don’t wash your bed sheets and towels daily at home, do you?
  • Run your hotel room air-conditioner sparingly 
    2. Economical aspect:
    • Prefer local. The travel industry can be misleading. As a travel destination gets more popular, foreign investors come in and start building up hotels and tour companies, which leads to a situation where the money doesn’t stay in the local community. Try to leave most of the money spent on your trip for the benefit of the locals, for example by choosing small locally-owned bed-and-breakfasts instead of big global hotel chains. This is especially important due to the difficult times many tourism entrepreneurs are facing after the coronavirus outbreak.

    3. Socio-cultural aspect:

    • Respect the local way of living. You are a visitor so, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
    • Find out about the culture beforehand to show respect to the locals. Making an effort to learn some words of the local language can open up whole new worlds on holiday.
    • Dress appropriately for the occasion and respect the dress code of the country and its culture.
    • Be curious, ask questions, listen, and discuss
    • Don’t take pictures of locals (especially not children) without their permission 

      Slow down 

      We, as travellers and inhabitants of Earth, have the power to shape the world we explore, and the  responsibility to shape it for good so that the future generations in the long run can enjoy the same natural wonders that we do. We think that travelling responsibly doesn’t just have positive effects on the nature and culture of your destination; it also gives the traveller a much more authentic and fulfilling experience. 

      To get back to where we began, travelling, or just  spending time in nature, reminds us of how vital it is to slow down, take the time to observe our surroundings, and to incorporate these principles into our daily lives as well. We are in this for the long run, and we move forward on our terms and speed - no matter how hard it is at times to not compare our lives with someone else’s on Instagram. This - slowing down and noticing the simple beauties in daily life - is something we want to remember this autumn, and we hope this gives you some inspiration to do the same. 



      References:

      [1] Saramäki, R. (2020). 250 Ilmastotekoa, joilla pelastat mailman.

      [2] Sadhguru. (2016). Inner Engineering – A Yogi’s Guide To Joy.

      [3] Sinimalism blog. Exotic travels vs. Proximity tourism – Can we get the same wanderlust vibes nearby? Available at: https://sinimalism.com/exotic-destination-proximity-tourism/

      [4] Sinimalism blog. How to hike responsibly- 10 responsible hiking tips. Available at: https://sinimalism.com/ecotourism-responsible-hiking-tips/ 

      [5] UNWTO. Sustainable development. Available at: https://www.unwto.org/sustainable-development



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